Schedule 19

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:15 pm ar 30 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office 6:15, 30 Mehefin 2009

I completely agree that Ofqual should be subject to the equality duty—it has all the roles that the hon. Gentleman has outlined. The Qualification and Curriculum Authority is subject to an existing equality duty. He has spoken about his concerns that qualification bodies need to do more to meet the needs of disabled people. We think that by showing that Ofqual is subject to that duty it will need to think more creatively about how it works with the disabled.

The specific duties consultation document proposes a duty to involve people from the protected groups, including the disabled, when drawing up policies and taking decisions. That duty will be highly relevant to engaging Ofqual in using more imaginative ways to ensure that the disabled do not suffer in their attempts to learn. There is a “but”, which concerns the peculiar state of Ofqual.

It would be useful to mention the way that we have approached schedule 19. I have already alluded to that, but I shall now do it at the right place. Ofqual exists, but only on an interim basis. The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, which is in the Lords, will put Ofqual on a statutory basis and we will put Ofqual into schedule 19 when it has that status.

As I have already said, we have a core of about 90 per cent. of public authorities already in schedule 19. However, we are talking to a number of other bodies that we think should be included in the schedule. We will update the schedule through secondary legislation before the new duty comes in, in 2011, so that there is no gap in coverage.

That is the same process that was used to build up the list of bodies subject to the race duty. I have already referred my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, who is not in his place, to that sizeable list and we are following that precedent. It allows us to have informed discussions with those we want to list. Public authorities need to let us know their views on whether they should be subject to the duty, but they need to know what the general duty is. Therefore, we have put it out publicly and we will engage with them now that they know what being a public authority will involve. We would like to deal with Ofqual at the same time, but we will definitely put it in schedule 19.